Google Allo has been available for a few beta testers but was released yesterday for the general public on both iOS and Android platforms. If you’re a nerd, then you know this is an app that Google talked a lot about at their I/O conference earlier this year. Ironically, as you’ll see later in this blog post, the DJ they had at the start of the conference kept smacking on the “input!” button waay more than the “output” button. Go ahead and watch here if you’re interested.
But here’s my question: What is really new about Google Allo? If you look at it, like I’m about to do, Allo seems EXACTLY like Telegram, from its interface to its feature set. This leaves me wondering why the heck an absolutely massive company would choose to duplicate an app that a smaller company has done, and possibly done better.
Okay, so let’s dive into this. I’m taking screenshots on my Nexus 5X phone for this post.
First off, we have the sign-up process. Unfortunately, I don’t have any pics of the process as I have already signed up and don’t want to lose previous chats, so you’ll just have to bear with me.
The sign-up process for both apps uses your phone number as your key identification. You grant the app access to your contacts and it will look at the phone numbers to see if there are other people you know using the app. If not, you can always invite them.
Why doesn’t Google just use my Google account and then check my Google contacts in the cloud? No idea. They kept this app almost completely separate with the exception of the Google Assistant, which I’ll get to later.
Next we compare the main screen of each of these apps. What do we see? Wow. Almost identical. We have the menu up in the top left, search in the top right, recent messages list, and a “New conversation” button down in the bottom right-hand corner.
Here we see the menus of both apps side by side. First we notice that Telegram has more items to tap on. Most of this, however, is to start a new conversation. There is also a “Contacts” button there. Allo chooses to keep Contacts hidden until you tap the “New conversation” button on the main screen, which makes sense to me. I don’t particularly care about my contacts unless I’m trying to reach them.
I would assume that the Allo menu might grow as the app becomes more refined and improved in the coming months.
From the main screen, we tap the “New message” icon in the lower right hand corner and we see this screen, shown above.
They both offer to start a new group chat or secre/incognito chat at the top and list all contacts below that. Allo also shows that we can start (or continue) a conversation with the Google Assistant. If the Google Assistant wasn’t there, these two screens would literally be identical.
Both apps over a secure chatting option, and both require that you start it in a new conversation. You can’t just enable secure mode in your regular conversations. What I mean is the end-to-end encryption, for example, does not seem to be used in regular chats. It’s only a feature of these secure/private/incognito conversations. Putting aside any discussion of whether or not these features should be included in regular conversations, both take the same approach and separate “regular” from “secure” chats.
Notice, both advertise the end-to-end encryption, self-destruct timer, and serverless storage. HOWEVER, Telegram blocks screen captures completely in secure chat, while, as you can see, I was able to grab my screen immediately in an Allo incognito chat. While not necessarily a security flaw (in my personal opinion), it is a super important feature that is lacking right now.
I also appreciate Telegram’s very clear wording as to what the secure chat provides to you, while Allo is kind of like “yeah, sure, whatever, here’s a few privacy features for you crazies….”
Verdict: Different (but in a bad way)
Chatting in general
Allo has stickers. So, uh, yeah, that’s nice.
But wait! SO DOES Telegram!!!
Okay, so, like Allo has this cool feature where you press and hold the mic icon to record an audio message, almost like a walkie-talkie! That’s cool, right?
Nope. Telegram has that.
But, uh, well, um… Allo has… uh… Google Assistant.
But is that really new though? Nope. Telegram has had chat bot integration around for years. Literally ALL that Google has done is put their advances AI into the concept which seemed to have originated with Telegram and puked it into their own chat app. That is it.
Is Allo new? No. It’s practically identical to Telegram on almost every front. The only, and I mean *only* difference between Telegram and Allo right now is that Allo has Google’s AI computing power behind it. That is it. That’s all. We can go home now…
Battle of the features
But before we go home, let’s do a quick little featureset comparison between the two apps in a clean, table format to kind of summarize this whole thing.
(I’m sorry for the bad formatting on this table. It looks terrible. I hope to fix it soon.)
|Encrypted chat||X||X||Requires starting a secure/incognito conversation first|
|Self-Destructing messages||X||X||Requires starting a secure/incognito conversation first|
|Artifical Intelligence||X||But who’s to say that somebody smart puts together a Telegram chat bot to interface with existing public Google Search features??|
|Phone # registraction||X||X|
|Web browser client||X|
|Icon without words||X|
So, there you go. Take what you want from all this, but I think Allo, as it is right now, is basically the same exact thing as other chat apps such as Telegram that we have seen for a long time now, with the exception of Google’s AI integration.
Do note that to make Google’s AI work best in the app, Google will be storing all chat information which is not sent in an “incognito” chat to their servers for analysis. They have to analyze what you say a lot to get an idea of who you are, and how you respond to things which enables them to generate better content for you as a user. Or at least that’s what they market this whole chat thing as.
If you read this far, thank you very much for taking interest in this article. I greatly appreciate it. PLEASE let me know what YOU think of Allo or even Telegram in the comments section below. I’ll be listening!